Aimée Grant Cumberbatch looks at five times fashion crossed the line from appreciation to appropriation
You might think we’d moved on from the days when the fashion industry looked to stereotypes for inspiration, but sadly you’d be mistaken. In 2015, the appropriation vs. appreciation debate rages on, and deciding where to draw the line between the two only gets trickier as the seasons roll by. So before the next scandal hits the stands, let’s recap on some of fashion’s most offensive fads.
Native American Headdresses
With festival season upon us this unfortunate trend is sure to be in the headlines faster than you can say Coachella. But the Native American headdress as a Disneyfied accessory isn’t just a phenomenon confined to a field in California or any of the much muddier ones closer to home. From Karlie Kloss on the Victoria’s Secret runway to Pharrell on the cover of Elle UK, the headdress has plenty of high-profile wearers. But with so many of its fans hopelessly unaware of the cultural significance behind the headdress, sporting one can only be considered a major fashion faux pas.
Like the Native American headdress, this too is a favourite accessory among festivalgoers. Often spotted with a flower crown, denim cut-offs and completely divorced from its cultural and religious significance, it seems somewhere along the line bindis became shorthand for hippie/boho chic. And now it seems no festival outfit is complete without a little cultural appropriation.
Chola girl style
A more recent offender, this trend riffs on or steals from (depending on your perspective) the hip-hop inspired Latina girl look of the 90s. Think dramatic sweeps of baby hair, gold chains, flannel shirts and bandannas. For more information see serial cultural appropriation offender Selena Gomez’s look at the MTV awards and the Givenchy AW15 show, where, with models styled as gothic chola girls complete with slick and sculpted baby hair fringes and elaborate septum piercings, it was all the cool with none of the culture.
An oldy but a goody in the fashion vs. cultural appropriation debate, turbans cropped up on catwalks everywhere back in 2007 and 2009. Touted as a shortcut to styling out a bad hair day, the trend for turbans was less about being a Sikh and more about desperately trying to be chic. Repeat after me, fashions fade but cultural awareness never goes out of style.
You might remember these from your childhood beach getaways back in the late 90s, where they came complete with an entire rainbow’s worth of multicoloured beads. Transformed from questionable holiday hairdo to firm fash pack favourite, the cornrow has been conveniently co-opted by celebrities everywhere. Originating in Africa and the Caribbean, the hairstyle has its roots in the slave trade, yet has only become cool since adopted by the likes of Kendall and Cara. And while you can just about be forgiven when you’re 5, ignorance is certainly not sartorial bliss.